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Where do ideas come from and how do you discover new ones? In his book The Three Wells of Screenwriting Matthew Kalil explores the sources of our ideas and gives practical advice for writers on how to uncover new sources and mine existing ones further.
Most books on screenwriting skip over the bit where you get ‘the great idea’, whether it be a story, a character, a theme, a place. They help you after the inspiration has struck, to shape and mould those ideas into something satisfying and sellable. Kalil brilliantly slows down that ‘inspiration moment’ and looks at where those ideas might be coming from to better understand how you can dig deeper from that source of inspiration and discover new ones.
Kalil navigates carefully the fine line between the myth of the creative muse; fragile, unknowable and unbiddable, and the hard-nosed, practical industry-wide belief that ideas are a commodity which can be willed into being by writers through sheer force and effort. In an industry filled with ‘how-to’ advice, Kalil goes beyond the usual and, in recognising the fragility of creative ideas, allows writers to discover and nurture them.
Kalil’s notion that ideas come from three distinct sources, or wells; the external sources well, the imagination well and the memory well, felt both revelatory and at the same time as if I’d always known it but never heard it articulated. Although Kalil recognises that writers will naturally draw from one well more readily than others, he places no judgement value – no one source is ‘better’ than another and all have their place in great creativity.
The book not only helps you to more deeply use the source of inspiration that comes most easily to you but it also helps you to tap into the other wells you might not explore so often, if at all.
The Three Wells of Screenwriting is a fantastic combination of sensitivity to the creative process and pragmatic, practical tools. Kalil offers exercises that bring the concept to life and allow you to immediately start to use it to generate or develop ideas. The concept is also applied to creating original characters and themes and to developing a strong sense of place in your writing.
Kalil’s exploration of story inspiration through the three wells concept is a must-read not only for screenwriters but for any creative seeking to broaden and deepen their sources of ideas.
Matthew Kalil is a writer, director and script editor. He has written and co-written over 40 produced episodes of TV and has received various grants, development funding and awards. Matthew’s productions have been screened and broadcast in Canada, Denmark, Morocco, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, the United States and the United Kingdom.